Nov 08, 2018

The Caribbean Islands - More than just a pirates haven

 

When the words ‘The Caribbean’ appear in your mind, what do you think of?

 

A haven for pirates in the past? White sand beaches with crystal clear water?  A tropical paradise with friendly people serving you Piña coladas? Laidback reggae music and Rastafarian people? The Caribbean is all of this and so much more!

 

The Caribbean islands are a mix of countries that represent diversity in every sense of the word - geographically, culturally and ethnically! 

 

Geographically speaking, the Caribbean is divided into three collective chains of islands: the Lesser Antilles, the Greater Antilles and the Bahamas.

 

The Lesser Antilles starts from Trinidad and goes up north to the three US Virgin Islands.

 

 

The Greater Antilles comprises Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and Hispaniola (Dominican Republic & Haiti).

 

The Bahamas consists of some South American countries such as Guyana, Belize, Surinam and Venezuela.

 

While all the islands are bang in the middle of the tropics, and are all therefore blessed with a charmingly tropical climate, they vary based on rainforest cover and winds from the northeast.

 

 

History of the Caribbean

 

As the story goes, Christopher Columbus’ voyage in 1492 led to his accidental landing in the Bahamas. Spanish Monarchs Ferdinand of Aragona and Isabella of Castille funded his great voyage, which he embarked upon with the intention to go to India to find new routes and trade links. 

 

It’s not correct to say that he ‘discovered’ the Bahamas. However, while there have been voyages to the New World before, his landing would mark the beginning of a tremendous change in the continents that would be called the Americas.

 

It began centuries of exploration and exploitation that would see many native tribes go into extinction and many enslaved.

 

Pirate Ships were frequent on the Caribbean coastlines in the early 17th century. Many of them even settled in Hispaniola and took part in cattle trade. 

 

Another turning point took place in the 18th century when European importers began to grow sugar and tobacco on the islands, as the climate of the Caribbean favoured its growth.

 

Tragically, this farming decision led to what is arguably the worst evil of humankind - slavery. Africans were shipped to the West Indies in horrendous conditions. They were auctioned in slave markets where they were traded for liquor, guns or various goods. They were, in short, treated as commodities themselves.

 

It took a long time for slavery to be abolished. But after anti-slavery movements began in European in the 17th century, the Caribbean countries eventually abolished it by the late 19th century.

 

 

Caribbean Culture Today

 

The Caribbean culture is without a doubt a product of its tropical geography. Everything, from the music to the attitude, customs and even architecture has been influenced by the geography. Even so, each country in the Caribbean has a unique culture that’s a mix of the colonial past and their own ethnic origins.

 

Economically, each country stands at different levels. Puerto Rico, a US territory, is undoubtedly one of the most developed, while countries like The Dominican Republic remain underdeveloped.

 

 

Interestingly, old African culture still has an influence on the Caribbean religion, art, culture and even food. Some of the most famous things associated with the Caribbean - the Rastafari culture, jerk cooking, Reggae music, etc. are all inspired by Africa.

 

Music and dance are one of the most famous things about the Caribbean. It has its origin from days of slavery, where it was used as a method of coping and surviving mentally. Today, Caribbean soundtracks play on city streets, local homes and at festivals. Dance has taken on various passionate forms, including the Calypso and Salsa! 

 

There’s a reason why the Caribbean islands are such a major tourist attraction today. The cultural blend as a result of centuries of integration makes it one of the most fascinating regions in the world to explore! 

 

 

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